The little-known short stories of Isabella Valancy Crawford reveal a talented writer’s response to the demands of the North American literary marketplace and the prevailing conventions of short fiction in the 1870s. Crawford contributed more than thirty short stories between 1872 and 1886 to Canadian and American mass-market “story papers,” her chief venue being Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner, one of many periodicals spawned by the New York publishing magnate Frank Leslie. The American border was, however, only one of many boundaries that her fiction crossed; it also breaches borders between elite and popular literature, poetry and prose, and humor and melodrama. Of particular interest are the varying inflections of her stories set in different places and directed to different national audiences. This paper delineates the manifold “border crossings” in Crawford’s fiction through a discussion of several representative short stories.
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